, Newburyport, MA


June 21, 2013

The war that made us what we are

While taking nothing away from the historical importance of the war that separated us from England’s royal rule or our First or Second World Wars, our Civil War’s history prevails as a reminder of what we had been as a nation and what we became because of it.

That was central to the rededication of Newburyport’s Atkinson Common memorial that names those who served in it.

Mayor Donna Holaday’s presentation of the late Hyram Landford’s speech of 1913 linked this occasion to that of the original dedication — a choice I find to have been particularly relevant to the need to revisit who we are, what we have become and why.

The outcome of that war truly engaged us as a nation by and for ALL the people.

Staying engaged is relevant because of the ongoing challenges we face for so long as the Statue of Liberty’s message continues to welcome those who would join us regardless of their means or place of entry.

We have fought great wars at equally great costs to win, define, retain and preserve that freedom.

Numbers do not begin to tell it all, but they are there to remind us of what it has taken to create and protect this great nation.

Of all our military dead, the newly revised total of 750,000 Civil War dead are the most.

Consider that our total population in 1860 was only 31,443,321.

Loss totals of other wars are incompatible with those of the Civil War because all the losses on both sides of that war were Americans.

Considering all the issues that had been so long in the making — chief among them being slavery and, to a lesser but persistent degree, women’s rights — the Civil War was the major testing of this nation’s commitment to self-governance.

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